Page images
PDF
EPUB

who believed with them that Christ was only a man; and some others whom he ranks with neither class. Concerning these ancient heretics, he professes to have compiled his information from older writers, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, Eusebius of Emesa, Adamantius (the author of the Dialogue de rectâ Fide), and others of less note, whose works are lost. It is, perhaps, a proof of his good sense, that he does not name Epiphanius as an authority. He speaks of the ancient sects, preceding the time of Arius, as being for the most part extinct; and apprehends that he may be blamed by some for having "brought them again from the darkness of oblivion into the light of memory."* He says, that God, permitting the evil seed to be sown, had turned the greater part of the tares into wheat, so that most places were free from the Gnostic heresies; the remaining disciples of Valentinus and of Marcion, and likewise the Manichæans, being few, easily numbered, and thinly scattered. in certain cities.† In various places he expresses himself to the same effect. The ancient heresies, he informs us, had passed out of

[ocr errors]

* Epist. præfat. ad Sporacium, pp. 188, 189.

† Hæret. Fab. Lib. II. Præfat. p. 218.

notice; they had either been "rooted up, or
remained like half-withered trees in a few cities
and villages."*

BESIDE the writers who have been mentioned, and of whose respective authority it has been my purpose to give some estimate, there

* Lib. III. Præfat. p. 226. Lib. III. ad finem, p. 132. Lib. IV.
Præfat. p. 232.- Certain assertions, however, in the Epistles
of Theodoret may appear, at first sight, irreconcilable with those
quoted above.
In one place (Epist. lxxxi. Opp. III. P. 11.
p. 954), he says he had converted the inhabitants of eight vil-
lages, together with those of the neighbouring country, from the
heresy of Marcion, and brought them over willingly to the truth;
(ἀσμένας [τὰς κώμας] πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐποδήγησα) ; — in another
(Epist. cxiii. pp. 986, 987), that during the twenty-six years he
had been bishop, he had "delivered more than a thousand souls
from the disease of Marcion"; adding, that all heresy was
thoroughly extirpated from the churches under his charge;
- and in a third (Epist. cxlv. p. 1026), that by his controversial
writings against them, he had made orthodox Christians of more
than a myriad of Marcionites; which of course may be consid-
ered as an extravagant rhetorical amplification. It is an obvious
remark, that a sect must have been already falling to pieces,
from which converts were made so readily. It is probable, like-
wise, that Theodoret, who in these Epistles is defending himself
against his enemies, and enumerating his services and labors as
bishop, not only exaggerated in the estimate of numbers, but
applied the name Marcionite very loosely. The remains of
the Marcionites, however, from the more simple doctrines and
stricter morality and discipline of the sect, were likely to sur-
vive those of the other Gnostics.

Another passage of one of Theodoret's Epistles has been referred to (Priestley's History of Early Opinions, Vol. I. p. 148),

are notices of the Gnostics, though not of much value, in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History; and some information concerning them is scattered, here and there, in the writings of other later fathers. But, in general, it is little to be relied on.

In addition, likewise, to the notices of them by Christian writers, we find that they had attracted the attention of the heathen opponents of Christianity. Celsus brought forward, as

as proving that the Gnostics were reviving in his time. But the passage has been misunderstood. Theodoret says, "Those who, at the present time, have renewed the heresy of Marcion and Valentinus, and Manes, and the other Docetæ, being angry with me for publicly exposing their heresy, have endeavoured to deceive the Emperor." (Epist. lxxxii. p. 955.) He is here speaking, not of any proper Gnostics, but of his enemies, the Eutychians, at that time the dominant party in the Church. With reference to their opinions respecting the person of Christ, he elsewhere describes them as endeavouring to plant anew the heresy of Valentinus and Bardesanes, which had been rooted out. (Epist. cxlv. p. 1024.) In his work on Heresies, likewise, he says, that Satan, by means of "the miserable Eutyches, had caused the heresy of Valentinus, withered long ago, to flower again." (Hæret. Fab. Lib. IV. n. 13. Opp. IV. 246.)

These passages illustrate the loose manner in which the names of ancient Gnostic sects were applied in later times, and serve to show, that they were sometimes used as mere terms of reproach toward those, who were regarded as coinciding with the Gnostics in some one of their opinions. A similar use of opprobrious appellations has at all times been common.

objections to Christianity, their real or pretended doctrines, in his work which was answered by Origen. In one place, as quoted by Origen,* he says; "Let no one think me ignorant, that some of the Christians agree that their God is the same with the God of the Jews, while others maintain one opposite to him, from whom they say that the Son came."

In the third century, Gnostics, and individuals holding some of the fundamental doctrines of the Gnostics, were made a subject of remark by the later Platonists, Plotinus and Porphyry. After the death of Plotinus, Porphyry reduced into some form, and gave some finish to the crude mass of his writings, which he had left unpublished, and prefixed to them an account of his life. In this account he says, that there were in the time of Plotinus many Christians, and other sectaries, drawn away from the ancient philosophy, the followers of Adelphius and Acylinus,† two individuals of whom we

Cont. Cels. Lib. V. n. 61. Opp. I. 624.

† Γεγόνασι δὲ κατ' αὐτὸν τῶν Χριστιανῶν πολλοὶ μὲν, καὶ ἄλλοι αίρετικαὶ δὲ, ἐκ τῆς παλαιᾶς φιλοσοφίας ἀνηγμένοι, οἱ περὶ τὸν ̓Αδέλφιον, καὶ ̓Αχι λῖνον, ol xodλoùs ižnæátwv. Plotini Vit. apud Opp. a Ficino. (The pages of the Life in this edition are not numbered.) I quote the original of the passage, because it has been differently understood. The uncommon name Acylinus has been supposed to be an error of transcription; but we have no good ground for substituting any other.

.....

*

have no further knowledge. These sectaries used the works of writers, whose names Porphyry gives, but of whom nothing now remains except their names. They likewise, he states, had books entitled Revelations, ascribed to Zoroaster and others. "Being," he says, "deceived themselves, they deceived many, pretending that Plato had not penetrated to the depth of the essence of intelligibles." Plotinus, he informs us, had written a treatise concerning them, which he, in his arrangement of Plotinus's works, had entitled " Against the Gnostics." But in the manuscripts of this treatise there is found still another title, more precise and appropriate, which describes it as Against those who affirm that the World and its Maker are Bad." Porphyry says, that he had himself proved at length, that the work ascribed to Zoroaster was spurious, having been lately fabricated by those sectaries. It may

66

* Many spurious works were about this time ascribed to Zoroaster. Of these his "Oracles" alone are, in part, extant. They may be found at the end of Stanley's "History of Philosophy." But they are not the work referred to above. They contain nothing peculiarly Gnostic, but are conformed to the doctrines of the later Platonists, and quoted with admiration by Proclus, and other writers of that school.

Now forming the ninth book of the second Ennead of his Works, p. 199, seqq.

Plotini Vita, ubi sup.

« PreviousContinue »